The electrical current of sexual temptation travels from our world’s images straight to our desires, equipped with enough voltage to kill. However, this is nothing new.
When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, the Greek sex culture was perverted, especially in Thessalonica, even at its religious sites. Marriages were arranged between girls 13 to 14 years-old and men in their mid-twenties. Oftentimes, they had never met. Consequently, it was expected that married men would have sexual relations with prostitutes, female slaves, or mistresses outside the marriage. Demosthenes (384-322 BC) wrote, “Mistresses we keep for our pleasure, concubines for our day-to-day physical well-being, and wives to bear us legitimate children and to serve as trustworthy guardians over our households.” The Stoic philosopher Cato (95-46 BC) praised men who gratified their sexual desires with a prostitute rather than another man’s wife. As a result, income from prostitution was substantial for the economy, especially for innkeepers and cook shop owners.
Judaism struggled with sexual immorality as well. In first century Judaism, women were stereotyped as instigators whenever sexual sins were committed and were labeled as lacking the spiritual and moral fiber needed to uphold the law. Notice the absence of the woman’s lover in the story of the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11). Allowances were made for men who experimented with sexual adventures, but this was forbidden for women. Augustus (63 BC-14 AD) Emperor of Rome instituted the “Julian Laws” in a failed attempt to reform sexual misconduct. It’s no wonder Paul taught the church to avoid sexual immorality through the power of the Holy Spirit who would step down sexual desires outside God’s design (see 1 Thessalonica 4:3).
After revealing God’s will that believers avoid sexual immorality (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3), Paul continued his teaching: “That each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know god” (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5). Control, ktasthai in Greek, meant “to acquire,” or, in our electrical transformer illustration, “to step up,” in a manner to honor God through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. What separates the fully surrendered from the partially surrendered is not superior self-control, (single phase electricity for the sake of our illustration), but intimacy with God. In other words, we do not pretend that we do not have the desires; rather, we humbly submit them to the Holy Spirit. Paul said that the heathen lust because they do not know, or experience intimacy with, God in their hearts. Jesus preached that sexual immorality flowed from one’s heart (see Matthew 15:19).
God’s design is for a husband to leave, cleave, and weave his life with his wife’s (see Genesis 2:24). During sexual intimacy, endorphins and enkephalins rush to the excitement and risk center of a man’s brain, the preoptic neuron, filling it to the highest possible level. A man’s brain glues what he sees during sexual intimacy to what he is experiencing. God’s idea is for this to be only his wife (Douglas Weiss, Sex, Men, and God, Lake Mary, Floridy: Siloam Press, 2002, 15-16).
What would it look like if the Holy Spirit would step up your desires to honor God? How could you learn to control your body with a heart that is intimate with Christ?